Contractor sues Wal-Mart | nnbw.com

Contractor sues Wal-Mart

Anne Knowles

Wal-Mart’s controversial superstore in northwest Reno opened in January, and builders are still waiting to get paid for much of their work on it.

That’s what a handful of contractors contend in a lawsuit filed against the giant retailer and Bodell Construction Co.

Inc., the Salt Lake City, Utah, company that was the general contractor on the project.

The suit, a foreclosure on a mechanic’s lien, also cites two surety bond companies and RMC Nevada Inc., a Reno-based ready mix concrete supplier.

Robert F.

Enz Construction Nevada Inc., a Reno-based subcontractor on the store, is the suit’s plaintiff, but nine other firms, including Granite Construction Co., WES Construction Inc.

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and Tedecsco Construction Inc., that did work for Enz are listed as claimants.

At the heart of suit is a mechanic’s lien for $908,361.37 that Enz, which worked for Bodell, filed against the property.

Enz’s lien joins more than a dozen other ones filed by various subcontractors on the project, including Granite’s for $1.1 million and Tedesco’s for $183,167.61.

All told, the liens total $2.4 million, although that figure contains duplications because subcontractors working for one another filed liens for essentially the same work, materials, or equipment.

The building permit for the 205,319- square-foot store at West 7th Street and North McCarran Boulevard filed in May 2003 said the building’s value was $8.7 million.

Several attorneys representing Enz and the claimants met with Wal-Mart’s lawyers last week, but got nowhere with the retailer, according to Jim Leslie, Enz’s counsel.

“In a couple weeks we’ll file a report with the court, a joint case conference report, and then everyone can start throwing discovery requests at one another, and depositions after that,” said Leslie.

According to court documents,Wal- Mart and Bodell requested a jury trial.

The trial date has been set for May 9, 2005, and the Washoe County judge assigned to it is Steven R.

Kosach.

This isn’t Kosach’s first dealing with the store.

In 2000,Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

went before the Reno City Council four times to ask permission to build the supercenter.

Amidst much local opposition and some support, and citing an independent report saying the increased traffic would overwhelm the area, the council rejected Wal- Mart’s request in November.

Wal-Mart appealed the decision and the case was assigned to a Second Judicial Circuit Court of the State of Nevada in and for the County of Washoe judge Judge Kosach.

In February 2001, Kosach found in favor of Wal-Mart.

Rather than appeal the case to the state supreme court, the council agreed to issue Wal-Mart a special use permit – with 43 conditions that had been previously developed by the area regional planning commission, according to Keith Lockard, senior civil engineer with the City of Reno.

The conditions ranged from restrictions on when goods could be delivered to the store to the type and number of trees used in landscaping.

The list also included street and signal work on Mae Anne Avenue, 7th and McCarran, as well as the installation of covered bus stops near the store.

“I heard the city didn’t want it and have been real strict with construction and that caused problems,” said Mike Little, a credit manager with Las Vegas-based Ahern Rentals, which rents out all types of construction equipment.

Ahern rented equipment to six subcontractors on the project and has filed a lien against the property for over $26,000.

“I heard there were major problems with construction,” said Little.

“There are accusations on both sides.”

“The store had major cost overruns, due to the street work required by the city,” said Sean Carnahan, Reno manager for Granite, a national construction firm based at Watsonville, Calif.

Carnahan says contractors were forced into performing extra work while adhering to a store-opening deadline they were contractually obligated to meet.

“There was urgency to get the store done, but no urgency on Wal-Mart’s part,” to pay contractors, said Carnahan.

“They’re going through everything with a finetoothed comb.”

According to Bodell, last-minute work order changes created the problem.

“Wal-Mart isn’t necessarily disputing anything, but they’re going over it now,” said Eric Reiber, general manager for Bodell’s Missoula, Mont., division that managed the project.

But the project engineer, which files work order changes, says those changes were nothing extraordinary.

“There were several change orders after the project was bid, but that’s not uncommon,” said Barry Lindner, engineer with CEI Engineering Associates Inc.

in Fresno, Calif.

He says that’s especially true of large projects in infill areas such as Wal-Mart’s northwest supercenter.

Wal-Mart, for its part, agrees that the project was not unusual.

“When Wal-Mart builds a store and has a general contractor who hires subcontractors, liens pop up,” said Amy Hill, Wal-Mart spokeswoman.

“We’re working closely with the general contractor to make sure everyone gets paid.”

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